Most importantly, I am most delighted to introduce Mandy Herlich as our new Director of Religious School. Director Herlich begins July 1st. I feel blessed to have Mandy as a colleague. She is kind, creative, and organized. And, she inherits a school and leadership team eager to work with her in support of our youth experience. We’ll make sure to find all sorts of wonderful ways to welcome Mandy and her husband Dustin Herlich and include them in life at Emanuel. Thank you, Mandy and Dustin!
Recently, a congregant made a meaningful suggestion that I speak about the possible annexation by Israel of territories in the West Bank.
So on short notice, on Shabbat morning, I offered some initial, if not incomplete, thoughts - basing part of my response on a recent letter written by Rabbi Rick Jacob in Times of Israel and part of it on Micah Goodman’s Catch-67.
And to be sure there will be more insights to come.
So for starters, I reminded everyone of a statement in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, similar to our own US Declaration of Independence, if not more well-rounded: Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Then, with this statement as the moral backdrop for his opinion, I outlined Rabbi Jacob’s article, which spoke to the problems he and many see with annexation, myself included.
In "A Zionist Case for Opposing Unilateral Annexation of the West Bank"Times of Israel, June, 24, 2020), Rabbi Jacobs warned against annexation because it could:
1) Fail to give Palestinian civil rights in these annexed territories.
2) Threaten bipartisan US relations built on democratic values like equality, freedom, and justice.
3) Compromise Israeli security.
4) Diminish Israel’s standing in the world/Increase its status as a pariah nation.
5) Stoke the Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS) movement.
6) Alienate proud Jewish youth and compel them to speak out against the injustices.
7) Damage Israel’s moral integrity.
8) Foreclose just solution to peace and two-state solution.
Next, Rabbi Jacobs brought up reasonable arguments against his own argument, namely many in Israel have little or no confidence in a viable peace process with Palestinian leadership. There remains ongoing acts of terror. Palestinian leadership and their allies support combatants and their families with impunity. And, Palestinian leadership has forsaken multilateral agreements with Israel and the US on matters of security.
For the most part, I agree with Rabbi Jacobs, especially regarding Palestinian rights, Israeli security, and the alienation of our youth. I do, however, have some contentions. There are enough annexation plans out there, it’s hard to know what we’re really arguing against. What do we really mean when we talk about annexation? I think that definition needs to be clarified. Moreover, I also wonder if annexation is not more of a paper tiger, something that the Israeli administration knows it may never have a better chance to advance given the sympathy of our president. But given the pandemic and accompanying political climate, it’s hard to see even this administration giving it’s hechsher on annexation. We’ll see. But more importantly, I turn to Micah Goodman’s pragmatic wisdom, which champions less a two-state solution and more basic guarantees in the current geopolitical reality that will ensure human and civil rights for Palestinians and security for Israelis. For Goodman, there are too many religious and political obstacles to a two-state solution, real barriers that will not begin to be overcome without basics like security and rights. For me, I am less concerned that annexation will inhibit the formation of a sovereign Palestinian state to exist alongside its Israeli counterpart, a reality that seems so far away. I do worry about Israel doing something that will simply trample on basic Palestinian rights in the present, rights that can be delivered sooner than later - with proper security trade-offs and without complex conversations about statehood. There is no two-state solution in the future without a bridge built in the present, one forged upon a foundation of Palestinian rights and Israeli security. This bridge should be the primary focus of Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
I am happy to continue this conversation with you. Feel free to email me at email@example.com. Also, be on the lookout for our new Shalom Hartman class later this summer. It’s entitled: “iEngage: Together and Apart: The Future of Jewish Peoplehood.” Details are forthcoming.
On behalf of Betsy, Cara, and Jared, I wish you and yours a happy Independence Day. May this 4th of July call us to do whatever we can to ensure that all are truly created equal and that we do whatever we can to ensure a more perfect Union. A meaningful birthday, America! Many joyful returns!
Make it a day of blessing, be a force for good, and stay in the fight!
Rabbi Craig Marantz